Chapter Fifteen: The Four Pawns
The four stood and listened intently as the Sage raved on about someplace called the outside. She spoke of it almost like it was a prison, and from the descriptions she gave, she seemed to have a pretty comprehensive understanding of its inner workings, not that it helped make it any less bizarre to the four. She spoke of the thing Otis had beforehand. The overseer. Though she spoke of it differently. It wasn’t a god as Otis had implied, it was a con artist and It was imprisoned within the outside. It had been up to this for hundreds of years, lying about what they were just to get what they desired. Many eras had fallen victim to this lie. Covering up the shady dealings under the guise of destiny and the tried and tested tale of good versus evil.
“So, this is great and all, but you said you’d get us out alive. Can we maybe get to that part?” V said, earning a quick nod from the Sage who was glad to know they were at least keeping up.
“Well, there’s a little detail your friend Otis here left out. They’re not just asking for four ordinary souls, they want four pure souls. And that’s why I chose you four,” said the Sage.
“Because what? Our souls are tainted?” June replied defensively.
“Those aren’t the exact words I’d use. But when they try to feed off you four they’ll become poisoned by your… um, flaws,” she said, not convincing the four in her sincerity.
“So, what? Is that it? It feeds off us?,” said V.
“Yeah, I’m not too sure about that. Sounds kinda painful if you ask me,” Jamal added.
“It won’t hurt at all, you’ll be fine,” the sage exclaimed. Her facade of confidence quickly dissipating as the four continued to look at her with vacant expressions. “Well, I suppose I did get a little carried away with the theatrics of it all. You want a dummy’s guide of how to defeat an interdimensional being? Then here it comes.”
The sage did what she had promised, giving the four a guide of what to do when the time came, and she was right, it really was the dummies guide, she had literally everything planned out. Clearly, she’d been planning this for a while.
Firstly they’d travel to the outside, where they’d meet the overseer. Then it was simple, they’d lure them into trying to take their souls. The darkness would taint the transfer and rather than reinitializing them, it would poison them. It seemed simple enough, now all that was left was for them to carry it out.
Once the Sage had given out her last few instructions the sounds of footsteps could be heard in the corridor behind her. There was a short silence followed by a muffled panic as the guards wondered how the sage had slipped past them. Soon a few more footsteps could be heard ringing through the dimly lit hall as the King as well as Grace who shadowed him. The guards fumbled through the abundance of keys before finally unlocking the cell door. The King walked in, basically strutting as he did so.
“You are aware you’re supposed to report to me first Sage?” said the King in a smug voice that was probably meant to mask his still evident annoyance.
“I just thought I’d have a quick chat with them. I’ve heard that they’ve given you some trouble, so I thought I’d work things out. Now they’re itching to carry out their duty for the kingdom,” she exclaimed, not quite matching the enthusiasm of the four who she sly prodded with her staff to get a reaction.
“Yes, right! I can’t wait to be sacrificed!” shouted Otis, sounding just a little too excited, not that King cared, he supposed at least it would make things easier with them like this.
Otis gave a thumbs up to V, happy with his own performance, V on the other hand just rolled her eyes.
“In that case then, I suppose we should get on with the ritual, we’ve wasted enough time already. Guards, please escort our acquaintances here to the chamber,” said the King, lazily gesturing to the guards who all grabbed one of the four.
The Sage got a far nicer treatment as a guard simply gestured for her to follow the King and Grace out into the corridor.
Pushed out of the cell and led down the hall with rather pointy spears pressed against their backs the four followed the King from a distance to this chamber. Thanks to the Sage they knew what resided there and they didn’t have much to worry about. However, where they going next on the other hand? That’s where stuff could either go incredibly wrong or incredibly well, and at this point, it was looking like a bit of a tossup between the two. Even the Sages’ quick smirks which she shot back at the four weren’t exactly building the confidence of them tremendously. To think that yesterday they were all just going about their lives, and now they potentially had the fate of the realm on their shoulders was a terrifying change.
Otis probably seemed the most okay with the situation, he saw it as a way to prove himself, though the others wondered if the overconfidence would potentially fuck things up.
V just wanted to get it over with, all whilst hopefully staying alive at the end of it.
Jamal didn’t seem scared anymore, though what took its place was a strange kind of acceptance of the situation which none of them knew was either better or worse.
June was hard to read, as usual. They might have been able to get something out of her, if they had time. But as they reached a large stone archway, it was clear they had already run out of it.
Beyond this entrance was a large rounded room which had four large crystals sticking through the roof, all pointed toward the centre, they looked like the roots of the crystals that stood around the castle, they didn’t realise they went so deep underground. It was all beautiful in a way, but then again anything would be compared to the cramp cells they’d been kept in.
In the large room was a lake that ran around the outer rim of the room, though it wouldn’t be good to drink from, whatever was running through it glowed luminous blue and probably wouldn’t taste good. The channels this blue liquid flowed down all lead to the centre where a large pool of it was. Alongside this pool stood the King, Grace and the Sage, all waiting for the four, and now they’d arrived, the ritual could begin and from the looks of things, the king was in a rush to get started.
The Sage started her ritual, but the King grew impatient, he told her to quit the formalities. Moving on from the King’s interruption the Sage knelt down and dipped her hands into the pool, coating her hands in the blue liquid which clung to her hands like a sort of gel. She stayed knelt as she went on to draw shapes onto her face before whispering a series of words, though no one could comprehend what she was saying. Whatever it was though seemed to work, the crystals above glowed blue, mimicking the blue liquid that the Sage had used to draw on herself. The four looked on as the sage whispered her last few incantations, spreading her arms wide as the crystals grew impossibly bright, making it hard for anyone to see in the chamber.
Above in Glasshall, beams of light shot down from the sky, four to be exact, each one collided with the crystals and shot through them. The current travelled deep underground until it reached the chamber. Here it shot through the crystals and travelled through the sage. Her head dropped backwards and her mouth shot open, it looked like she was screaming yet no sound could be heard.
Jamal even rubbed his ears to check if he’d gone deaf. The sage remained in this state for a few more seconds before she shot her arms forward toward the pool she was kneeled in front of. The glowing blue energy caused a vacuum in the pool as it whirled around. The sage went limp for a moment as the energy left her, the pool of blue liquid turning into a black void. Shaking it off after a moment of silence the sage got to her feet with the help of a nearby guard, she turned to the King.
“It’s done. You can send them through now,” she said, obviously drained from whatever the hell she’d just done.
“Well, let’s get this done. Guards, send them through,” the King said, and with that, the guards began their prodding once more.
The Sage moved to the side to guide them through, though not without a little wink. As they grew closer to what had previously been the pool in the centre, they reached the edge, all four of them staring down into what was now an abyss with seemingly no end. This they supposed was the gate to the outside.
“So, this is it huh?” V said, her eyes glued to the void below her. “Anyone have any parting words before we do this?” she asked, leading to a short silence. V would’ve suspected Otis to oblige, or even Jamal possibly. But when June cleared her throat, she couldn’t help but wait in anticipation.
“We’re going to end this. In the name of everyone who’s died and been swept under the rug along with the rest of the lies. This is to the people in Bellkeep.” she said solemnly, before looking over toward Jamal. “This is to the brothers we lost.” she said, earning a nod from Jamal. It was short but sweet, and much to their amazement, quite sentimental which was strange coming from June.
The four let it settle for a moment, even the guards seemed to give them the moment levity as they momentarily halted gently stabbing them in the back. Once they’d savoured the moment however they thought they’d do the honours themselves, each putting a foot forward toward the gateway.
“Stop!” shouted Grace, causing them all to halt. She ran over and held onto V.
“Grace! What the fuck are you doing?!” V shouted, trying her best to shake her off, but Grace refused to let go.
The other three stood by, completely at loss at what to do.
“Grace, don’t be so stupid! Come back here right now!” Bellowed the King, his demands falling flat as Grace ignored them, after all she’d seen today, she’d grown tired of being his shadow.
The whole chamber filled with panic as no one knew how to respond, even the Sage who’d been mostly cool and collected looked completely at a loss of what to do. It looked as if her infinite wisdom and fool-proof plan, she hadn’t quite taken this scenario into account.
“Violet’s just come back and you didn’t think twice about sacrificing her. You don’t even care that she’s going to die! If she goes, I’m going!” Grace shouted back, reaching a volume that rivalled the Kings.
“Grace, you need to stop. You’re going to mess everything up,” V hissed, trying her best to keep a lid on the whole plan the Sage had brewed up.
Grace would ignore her, however, quite clearly she wasn’t going to listen to reason.
V would almost be proud if she wasn’t about to fuck everything up.
“So, lets see if you care now! Are you willing to go through with this now with both your daughters on the line?!” she shouted.
The King almost looked disgusted by what she said.
“Violet? Violet was never my daughter. Your Mother found her beside trash in the street. And you know what? I wish she would’ve left her there!” shouted the King back, he seemed to almost take joy in this statement.
Grace’s grip lessened from V for a second, neither of them knew what to say.
“I only kept her around to humour your mother, so the day she chose to run away was a gift from the Gods. When I caught her that night, slipping through her bedroom window, I waved her off,” Grace’s face turned sour, the anger returned.
V felt Grace completely let go, though her presence remained close. She leant in closer to V and hugged her for a moment before pulling away.
“Even if we’re not blood, you’re still my sister. And you won’t do this alone,” she said, taking a step back toward the void.
V caught on to what she was doing and reached out for her. But it was too late, Grace had gone through the gate. Everyone stood by stunned. V started calling Grace’s name, but it was no use. Without a second thought, she plunged in after her, being swallowed by the darkness.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! What’re we supposed to do now?!” shouted Otis, his confidence taking a significant hit from his breezy attitude from beforehand.
“Follow her,” said June matter of factly, keeping her eyes pinned to where V had jumped through.
“Wait but-” Otis couldn’t even finish his objection before June dived in. Now it was only Jamal and him left to make the plunge.
“Otis, if we don’t do this, all those deaths would’ve been for nothing. My brothers would’ve died for nothing,” Jamal said, taking Otis back for a moment. This was the same guy who ran at any opportunity. If he was being braver than him then Otis was definitely doing something wrong.
“Okay, right. So are we going to work off a one, two, three system or what?” Otis asked, turning to find that Jamal had already jumped. “Well shit, here goes nothing then,” he sighed, taking a deep breath and holding his nose as he made the jump, his vision being swallowed by darkness. So much for the foolproof plan.